Posts tagged ‘cherry’

August 24, 2011

Pumpercake’s Cherry Chocolate Comeback

I’m ashamed of how long its been since I’ve shared a recipe with you.  There’s no excuse for my blatant neglect of the site, however, I assure you that the recent absence of posts doesn’t mean that there’s been any less baking going on in the Pumpercake kitchen.  Quite the opposite, actually.  The past couple weeks have been spent in preparation of and taking much joy in sharing a series of fun and delicious summertime treats to be enjoyed by friends and family during various visits and vacations.  In the weeks leading up to my jam-packed vacation week, I was able to plan and put together many delightful desserts, and even squeezed in a couple food-photo sessions (special thanks goes out to my favorite food photographer for these especially beautiful shots).What I wasn’t quite able to find time for, however, was the actual article-writing/recipe-posting/desperate-attempts-at-witty-storytelling.

Now, as I attempt to  find myself with a surplus of notes on pre-perfected recipes and hundreds of unedited dessert photos floating about my computer in a devastatingly unorganized manner, just waiting to be sorted and presented to you.  The recipe I chose to share today is one from the lovely vacation I went on with my favorite Virginia family (including my favorite Virginia baby) to Wrightsville Beach.

My cherry-almond chocolate ganache tart is inspired by my favorite kind of protein bar of the same flavor combination.  This version is gluten-free and to enjoyed by all.  As if that weren’t enough, the entire dessert can be made as a no-bake… perfect for a hot summer night when you can’t bare to turn on the oven.  Variations in the type of chocolate, fruit, and nuts used can be made according to your preferences, but I love this combination of silky bitter and semisweet chocolate freckled with juicy dark cherries and fragrant toasted almonds.  The simplicity of the ingredients and assembly seems to only enhance the rustic beauty of the final product.

Cherry-Dimpled Chocolate Ganache Tart

Inspired by: LUNA’s “Chocolate Cherry Almond Bar”

Adapted from Hot Polka Dot‘s Chocolate Hazelnut Cherry Tart

1 cup heavy cream

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cherry extract

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

6 ounces semisweet chocolate

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

¼ cup salted almonds

Chocolate Tart Crust
(recipe below)

1 cup dark cherries, pitted

– -recipe yield:
12 x 8½-inch rectangle tart

Pour cream in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and whisk in the extracts and corn syrup.  Place saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a rapid simmer.  While cream mixture is heating, roughly chop semisweet and bittersweet chocolate and place in a large bowl.  Pour simmering cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit, untouched, for about 2 minutes.  Then, whisk the mixture in the center of the bowl to melt the chocolate and form a smooth ganache.  Set aside for about 4-5 minutes to slightly cool and thicken.

Place whole almonds in a dry non-stick skillet over low heat while the ganache thickens.  Toss the almonds to toast them evenly and remove them from heat as soon as they are fragrant (which should only take a few minutes).  Transfer nuts to a cutting boar, and, once cooled, give them a rough chop to desired size.  Pour the lukewarm, thickened ganache into a completely cooled tart shell and smooth evenly with an angled spatula.  Scatter pitted cherries into the tart, pressing them slightly into the ganache, and sprinkle on the toasted, chopped almonds evenly over top of the cherry-dimpled tart.  Allow to set up at room temperature for about 3-4 hours, or 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Gluten Free Chocolate Tart Crust

Adapted from  Dinners & DreamsCorn Flake Pie Crust

 6 cups gluten-free corn flakes

¼ cup Dutch process cocoa powder

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 egg, lightly beaten (omit for no-bake)

½ teaspoon salt

-recipe yield: one 12×8½-inch tart shell

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a large tart pan with a removable bottom and set aside.  Pulse together in a food processor the corn flakes and cocoa powder until completely crushed and combined.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl containing the butter, sugar and chocolate chips and place over medium heat until melted and homogeneous.  Pour the chocolate-butter mixture over the corn flake mixture along with the lightly beaten egg and the salt, and stir until the crumbly mixture has fully combined.  Press crust firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan, and place into preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until crisped and slightly puffed.  Allow to cool completely in pan on a wire rack before filling with ganache.


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July 5, 2011

Happy 4th Of Jell-y!

Proud American that I am, I decided that one Patriotic dessert wasn’t enough to celebrate Independence Day this year. In addition to the Red, White, & Blue Bombe Glacée I made for this weekend’s festivities, I prepared another colorful cake to help set the celebratory tone. I couldn’t resist another opportunity to use the refreshing flavor trio of the beloved Bomb Pop (cherry, lime, blue raspberry) in one more treat. Inspired by Sprinkle Bakes‘ lovely “Crown Jewel Cake,” I decided to revamp her cheerful version of the retro “Broken Glass Cake” by using the flavors of the Bomb Pop and the shapes and colors of our flag.

Sweet cherry sponge cake hugs a fluffy lime cream filling, speckled with playful bursts of blue raspberry and cherry Jello stars. The seemingly odd mixture of tart-sweet flavors and jiggly-smooth textures comes together in a harmonious, silky bite.

My favorite part about this cake is the exciting element of surprise that comes with cutting into it.  With different shapes and sizes of red and blue stars, no two slices are alike.  Each cut into the cake brings about an excitement comparable to the incredible National fireworks show… there’s no telling what pretty star pattern will be uncovered next.

Starry Stained Glass Cake

Inspired by: Bomb Pops & Sprinkle Bakes’ “Crown Jewel Cake

Adapted from Heather Baird’s Crown Jewel Cake,” SprinkleBakes

Cherry Joconde Sponge Cake

1¼ cups almond flour

1/3 cup plus 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

¾ teaspoon cherry extract

1-1½ teaspoons red gel food coloring

4 egg whites

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar

2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

–recipe yield: one 11½ x 17½ sheet cake to be fit as a shell into one 8-inch round cake pan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line an 8-inch round springform cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.  Prepare an 11½ x 17½ sheet cake pan by buttering it, lining it in parchment paper, and buttering the paper.  In a food processor, pulse together the almond flour, all-purpose flour and confectioner’s sugar to remove any lumps and to further grind down the almonds.  In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs until frothy, and then gradually add in the combined dry ingredients from the food processor while continuing to beat and scraping down the sides of the bowl in between additions.  Beat in egg yolks and extract, and gradually add food coloring until desired color is reached.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until frothy.  Gradually add in superfine sugar while continuing to whip the mixture into a thick meringue.  Once sugar has been added and meringue has reached stiff peaks, fold it gently into the batter.  Pour in the cooled, melted butter, give it two or three more folds, and then pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan.  Tilt the pan to distribute the batter into an even layer and tap the bottom of the pan against the counter top to allow any air bubbles to escape.   Place pan into the oven to bake for 5-7 minutes, checking it frequently as it burns quickly and easily.

While cake is baking, lay out a clean pastry cloth or non-patterned tea towel next to a wire cooling rack.  Sprinkle the cloth with a few tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar, smoothing it out into an even layer with your hands.  Immediately upon removing it from the oven, turn out the hot cake onto the sugared pastry cloth.  Peel away and discard the parchment paper from the top of the cake.  Using the round cake pan as a guide, cut a long strip of the cake to fit inside around the pan, making up the cake edges.  If the strip doesn’t cover all the way around the inside of the pan, a shorter strip may be sliced, added and pressed in to fill the gap.  Cut a circle from the sheet cake to make up the bottom of the cake and press it into the pan inside the cake edges.

Lime Cream Filling

3-ounce box blue raspberry gelatin
(ex. Berry Blue Jello)

3-ounce box cherry gelatin
(ex. Cherry Jello)

1¼ cups pineapple juice

¼ cup lime juice

1½ tablespoons powdered gelatin

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water

2 cups heavy whipping cream

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare both packages of flavored gelatin as directed on box.  Once gelatin is completely set and chilled, it is ready to be sliced into shapes.  Using different sized star-shaped cookie cutters, slice set gelatin into very thick stars (see picture).  The thicker the stars are cut, the more likely they will appear in cake slices.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine pineapple and lime juice.  Sprinkle powdered gelatin into the juice and let it sit for 2-3 minutes, or until the gelatin has completely dissolved.  Once dissolved, place the saucepan over medium-low heat for another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture has melted into a smooth liquid.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cold water.  Pour the mixture into a small bowl and set it on the counter top to cool slightly for about 5 minutes.  Place it into the refrigerator for another 5 minutes to allow it to cool completely, but remain in liquid form (not set up into a gelatin).  In a large bowl, whip cold cream into soft peaks.  Pour in the vanilla extract and continue to whip until it has reached stiff peaks.  Whisk cooled gelatin mixture well into whipped vanilla cream.

Assembly

Add a few spoon-fulls of the lime cream filling into the pan containing the prepared, pressed sponge cake shell.  Place a few flavored gelatin stars into the pan on top of the filling.  Add more filling, followed by more stars, and continue until desired amount of gelatin stars have been added, leaving enough filling for a final, thick layer of filling to cover the stars and top off the cake.  Gently spread the top layer of filling into a smooth mound.  Cover cake with plastic wrap and allow it to set up in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

If desired, decorate set, firm cake with colored candies and/or a half batch of Best Vanilla Buttercream piped from a pastry or plastic zip-top bag fitted with a large star tip.  If using colored candies, do not place the candies directly on the surface of the filling, as the color will bleed though the white gelatin cream.

July 2, 2011

Bombes Away On Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July!  Sure, I may be a few days early, but that’s part of the beauty of this dessert… that it can be made days ahead of time.  Another part of the beauty of this dessert is, well, the beauty of the dessert!

I’ve known for months that this year’s Independence Day treat would be inspired by everyone’s favorite patriotic popsicle, the Bomb Pop.  The ice-cold striped snack, layered with bold, crisp flavors of blue raspberry, lime, and cherry left me with many possibilities.  The more I brainstormed, the more excited I got, leaving me with way too many dessert ideas.  I finally narrowed it down to two red, white, and blue desserts, and decided to make both of them.  Luckily, I will have an apartment full of visitors for the weekend who, I’m hoping, will help tear through these dishes (and the refrigerator full of other dessert leftovers, too!).

As I have two fabulous, patriotic desserts to share, I decided to post one a few days early (possibly giving an inspired reader a chance to make a quick copycat before Monday?).  During the bulk of my brainstorming, I focused mainly on dishes that showcase color, as it was important to me to display red, white, and blue in an exciting, attractive way.  As I was scribbling notes in my recipe journal, I glanced at where I’d written “Bomb Pop” on the page and noticed an accidental flourish resembling an “e” at the end of the word “Bomb”.  A bomb explosion went off in my brain.  A layered ice cream cake, or a “bombe glacée,” would be a perfect way to playfully mimic a Bomb Pop, showcasing the three flavors and colors, and also playing off the title of the treat itself!

Bombes are mainly made up of ice cream or sherbet, but some versions include a cake layer, mine included.  I layered homemade lime and homemade sweet dark cherry ice cream and enveloped both in a layer of bright blue raspberry cake.  I chose Swiss cake roll slices because I thought that the white buttercream swirls would pop against the blue cake.  And maybe also because I was somewhat hesitant as to how, exactly, a blue raspberry flavored cake would taste and wanted some vanilla buttercream to fall back on in case the cake wasn’t as pleasant-tasting as I’d hoped.  Luckily, the flavors of the cake and both ice creams came out wonderful, the cohesive dessert creamy and refreshing…  a perfect tribute to the Bomb Pop and a sweet way to celebrate (two days before) the 4th.

Patriotic Ice Cream Cake Bombe

Inspired by: Red, White & Blue Bomb Pops

Blue Raspberry Swiss Cake Roll

Adapted from Heather Baird’s Pink Velvet Roulade,” SprinkleBakes

4 eggs                                      ¼ teaspoon raspberry extract

¾ cup superfine sugar              ¾ tablespoon blue gel food coloring

3 tablespoons vegetable oil      1-2 drops purple gel food coloring

1½ tablespoons whole milk       1 cup all purpose flour

½ tablespoon lemon juice          1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cider vinegar           ¼ teaspoon salt

1½ tablespoons blue raspberry syrup

–recipe yield: 9-12 slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9½x13½ pan with buttered parchment paper.  Beat eggs for five full minutes, then,  slowly beat in superfine sugar and vegetable oil.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, lemon juice, vinegar, raspberry syrup, and extract.  Gradually add the liquid into egg mixture while continuing to mix on a high speed.  Add food coloring until desired color is reached.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  In small batches, add the sifted dry ingredients into the batter, mixing after each addition.  When completely combined and smooth, pour the batter into the prepared pan, tilting the pan to evenly distribute the batter.  Tap the bottom of the pan against the counter top to allow any air bubbles to escape before placing into the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cake is spring-y to the touch.

Lay out a pastry cloth or tea towel next to a wire cooling rack.  Sprinkle cloth with a confectioner’s sugar and smooth it into an even layer.  Immediately upon removing it from the oven, turn out the cake onto the sugared cloth.  Remove paper from the cake and gently roll cake and cloth into a tight log, starting at a shorter end of the cake.  When cake log is rolled with and wrapped in the cloth, place it on the wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Best Vanilla Buttercream

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¼ teaspoon salt

2½-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1½-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

–recipe yield: about 2 cups frosting

In a large bowl, beat together butter and salt until soft and creamed (about 2-4 minutes).  Add in about half of the sugar and the almond milk, and beat until combined.  Add in the remaining sugar, as well as the vanilla, and beat until smooth.  Drizzle in heavy cream while continuing to beat until desired fluffy consistency is reached.

Swiss Roll Assembly

When cake roll is cool, gently unroll it and pull away the cloth.  Spoon frosting onto the surface of unrolled cake and smooth in an even layer, leaving a thin, border unfrosted.  Gently roll cake back into log and wrap securely with plastic wrap. Freeze for 4 hours before cutting into slices with a serrated knife.

Lime Ice Cream

Adapted from Key Lime Ice Cream,” Food.com

10 ounces frozen limeade concentrate, thawed

zest and juice from 2 limes

14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract

1 teaspoon key lime extract

Line a 9×9-inch pan with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer.  In a medium bowl, whisk together limeade concentrate, zest, juice, and condensed milk.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whip the cream on a low speed until just slightly thickened.  Add both vanilla and lime extracts while continuing to mix.  When medium soft peaks form, fold in condensed milk mixture.  Spoon the combined mixture into prepare pan and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Sweet Black Cherry Ice Cream

Adapted from Spumoni Ice Cream,”
The Prepared Pantry

½ pint dark sweet cherries

2 tablespoons cherry preserves

2 cups whipping cream

½ cup sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure cherry extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon red gel food coloring

Line a 9×9-inch pan with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer.  Rinse and remove pits and stems from cherries.  Pat dry and give cherries a thorough, rough chop, or pulse a couple times in a food processor.  Combine chopped cherries and preserves in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix the whipping cream on a low speed until just slightly thickened.  Gradually pour in the condensed milk and both cherry and vanilla extracts, and continue to whip until soft peaks form.  Add food coloring until desired color is reached.  Gently fold the cherry-preserve mixture into the cream.  Spoon the combined mixture into the lined, chilled pan and freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm.

Assembly

Line a round-bottomed bowl (preferably aluminum) with plastic wrap.  Using a serrated knife, cut chilled cake roll into slices about 1-1½ inches thick.  Arrange slices in the lined bowl into a layer at the bottom of the pan and up the side of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till the slices are firm, at least 30 minutes.

Remove the lime ice cream from the freezer to allow it to soften for about 10 minutes.  Then, take the cake-roll lined bowl out of the freezer, remove outermost layer of plastic wrap and smooth the lime ice cream on top of the cake slices.  Spread ice cream into an even layer to cover the bottom third of the inside of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.  Repeat the softening process with the cherry ice cream, and spread it into the bowl onto the chilled lime ice cream and cake rolls.  Allow the cherry ice cream layer to reach another third of the way up inside the bowl, leaving the very top third portion of the bowl empty for the last layer.  Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze for another hour or so until firm.  Repeat the softening and smoothing process with the third and final layer of lime ice cream.  Smooth it into an even layer reaching the very top of the bowl and sides of the cake slices.  Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze til completely set and firm, 4-5 hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before ready to serve, remove the bowl from the freezer and discard plastic wrap.  Invert the dessert onto serving plate and peel away and discard plastic wrap.  If the dessert doesn’t release from the bowl with ease, run a kitchen towel dampened with hot water across the sides of the bowl before attempting to pull it away.  To serve, submerge a sharp knife into hot water before cutting into slices.

May 22, 2011

Macaron Mess, Part II: Macaron Success!

It is with great enthusiasm that I share with you today the news of my recent triumph over the anticipated (and dreaded)  French macaron!  You may remember my recent post involving my previously unsuccessful and all-around sad attempts at the temperamental cookie, as well as my promise to keep practicing, researching and attempting to master the art of the macaron.  Luckily, this is one of those instances where my more obsessive-compulsive traits came in handy, and after another week or so of reading up, gathering a few more materials, aging another couple pairs of egg whites, and picking apart the brain of the brilliant blogger/baker/creative mastermind, Heather (aka Ms. Sprinkle Bakes), I was finally able to pop out a couple batches of some pretty successful macarons.  Hooray!

I came to realize that I’d had a pretty good idea of what I was doing during the first few attempts, and with a few little tweaks to my original game plan, I found victory.  Victory, in this case, comes in the form of smooth, crispy, eggshell-like crusts, soft and meringue-y cookie center, and beautifully flourished “feet.”  One of the most crucial (and ridiculously simple)  changes I made had to do with the temperature of the oven.  After describing to her in painful detail every step I took in preparing my macaron batter, Heather’s first suggestion to me was to use an oven thermometer to test the true temperature of my oven.  I immediately bought the tool and came to find out that my oven is an astonishing 20 degrees hotter than its stated temperature says it should be.  This, most definitely, played a part in my failed cookies.

Convinced that I had jinxed myself the first time by previously making the filling before the macarons (incorrectly) baked, this time I focused only on the macaron batter and didn’t think twice about making a filling until they (hopefully) baked up correctly.  My first successful batch was just a simple white macaron.  In the spirit of celebration, I whipped up a rum-infused chocolate-black cherry filling to pipe in between the lovely little cookies.  Having been too nervous to sprinkle anything atop the unbaked batter, I instead brushed the top of the cookies with a little simple syrup and dusted them with some chopped cocoa nibs.

Just in case this batch had been a fluke, I made one more batch using the exact same techniques and adding a touch of green food coloring to the batter.  To my amazement, this batch worked out just as beautifully.  Using the extra pistachio paste I had leftover from my semifreddo, I made a pistachio buttercream for the filling, and used the same simple syrup brushing method to sprinkle some chopped nuts on the top of the assembled cookies.

By no means am I claiming that my macarons turned out perfect or that I’ve mastered the process, but I do feel pretty satisfied with the cookies I’ve been able to crank out so far.   I’m not sure if the oven temperature was the only flaw in my previous attempts, as I made a few other changes in the steps taken to achieve my final product, but I’ve formulated a (rather long) list of all the helpful tips and tricks that I’ve gathered along the way for anyone looking to make their own macarons.  I will continue to practice and possibly add to this list, but for now, I feel confident in saying that if these precautions are taken and the steps are followed meticulously, you’re bound to find the same success that I eventually did!

  • Invest in an oven thermometer.  As stated above, I found out (after a few failed batches) that my oven was much hotter than the temperature set.  While these cookies are too fragile to withstand such high heat, they also won’t bake up properly if the heat is too low.  Get to know your oven and it’s true temperatures before attempting your macarons.
  • Keep your almond flour in the freezer.  I always keep nuts in the freezer in order to keep the oils from going rancid, but for some reason I never thought to apply  this rule to my almond flour.  Not only will it keep the natural oils in the ground almonds from spoiling, but freezing the flour will also keep it from turning into a paste when you further grind it down.  So simple, but makes all the difference.
  • Use super-superfine sugar.  I normally buy Domino brand superfine sugar that comes in a skinny cardboard box.  When my first couple batches of macarons didn’t come out, Ms. Sprinkle Bakes inquired about my SF sugar and suggested that I might have gotten a bad box.  The fact that it comes in a cardboard box makes it susceptible to moisture.  If the box gets set into even the tiniest puddle of water on the counter, the sugar can be ruined.  I found another brand of superfine sugar that’s meant for dissolving into iced tea and is sold in a plastic container.  I double checked that it was pure SF sugar and nothing else and gave it a little zip through the food processor before using it to create my meringue for the macs.  I highly suggest being extra cautious in the quality and condition of your SF sugar!
  • Pulverize, pulverize, pulverize.  Grind up all of your dry ingredients to the finest powder you can possibly achieve.  Even the superfine sugar can benefit from a good run through the food processor.  Combine both the cold almond flour and the powdered sugar together in the food processor before grinding it down in order to keep the almond flour from becoming almond butter.  If the almonds start to separate from the sugar in the food processor, turn it off, fluff the powders together with a fork, and combine again.
  • Sift, sift, sift.  Sift the ground almond-powdered sugar mixture two or three times before sifting it (again) into the meringue.  Discard any and all excess almond bits that don’t make it through the sifter.
  • Beat the perfect meringue. The meringue should reach stiff peaks before the dry ingredients are incorporated, but not so stiff that the eggs start to separate in chunks.  Try beating on medium speed instead of high speed and checking the meringue frequently to make sure the mixture holds its shape and isn’t runny, but doesn’t appear too dry and over-whipped.
  • Fold carefully. When it comes to combining the batter, one fold too few or one fold too many can mean misshapen, cracked, or foot-less finished cookies.  Regardless of what anyone else said about starting with quick folding strokes, I’ve found long, gentle strokes are the best way to slowly but surely incorporate your batter to the perfect consistency, to the point where the batter falls from a spatula in shiny, smooth “ribbons.”
  • Line and prep insulated aluminum cookie sheets.  I read that the best pans to bake macarons on are insulated aluminum sheets (not non-stick), and after testing out this theory for myself, I most definitely agree.  The cookies baked up on these sheets were the most evenly cooked and the all-around best ones.  To line the cookie sheets, I tested both silpat mats and parchment paper and was pleased with the results of both, but would suggest parchment paper.  The reason for this is that I found it very helpful to trace 1-inch circles onto the paper to use as a guide when piping the batter onto the sheets.  This will help to create perfectly round, evenly sized and shaped round cookies every time.  Space the circles about an inch and a half apart.
  • Use a pastry bag and tip.  Using a pastry bag and tip will help the batter to pipe out smoothly into perfect little disks.  Using a pastry bag and tip will also help you to test out the consistency of your batter, as batter that just starts to ooze out of the tip of the filled pastry bag is the correct consistency.  If it does not, it is too stiff and hasn’t been folded enough.  Squeeze the batter back out of the bag, give it another fold, and try again.
  • Dry out your batter.  Once the batter has been piped into round disks on the sheets, tap the sheets on the counter-top to help get rid of any air bubbles and then allow the sheets to sit a room temperature for 15-30 minutes.  This will help the batter to create a shell on the top of the disks, and when the cookies are placed in the oven, the heat will help the bottom of the cookies to rise and form the little feet, while the dried shells will stay round, smooth and intact.
  • Rotate your pans. Being overly-cautious, I was hesitant to open the oven enough to rotate the cookie sheets halfway through baking, but found that it does make a huge difference in helping the macarons to bake evenly and the feet to flourish nicely around each cookie.

    French Macaron Shells

From Martha Stewart’s “French Macaroons”

1 cup confectioners sugar

¾ cup almond flour

¼ cup superfine sugar

2 egg whites, aged & room temperature*

small pinch of cream of tartar

-recipe yield: about 17 filled macarons

Trace 1-inch circles onto parchment paper and line cookie sheets with the paper.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together the confectioners sugar and the almond flour until further ground into a fine powder and thoroughly combined.  Sift the powder at least twice through, discarding any clumps, and set aside.  Clean the food processor and blade, and then use it to further grind down the superfine sugar.  Set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add in the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks have just formed.  Gradually add in the ground superfine sugar and continue to beat on medium speed, frequently turning off the mixer and checking for stiff peaks.  Once stiff peaks have been achieved, sift in the almond-confectioners sugar mixture.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold ingredients together without deflating the meringue.  Batter is properly folded when it falls from the spatula in shiny “ribbons.”

Fill pastry bag with cookie batter.  Pipe circles of batter onto parchment-lined sheets using the traced circles as guides.  Lightly tap trays on kitchen counter to release any air bubbles in the batter.   Gently press down with your finger any little peaks on the surface of the cookies that may have formed from piping.  Allow trays to sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes so that cookie batter can dry out.

When cookies have dried, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and insert one sheet of cookies into the center rack of the oven.  Rotate the pan after 5 minutes of baking and allow cookies to bake for an additional 5 minutes (10 minutes total).  Remove from oven and place onto cooling rack.  Replace oven temperature to 375 degrees, wait about 5 minutes for oven to reheat, and then reduce temperature to 325 degrees when inserting next sheet of cookies into the oven.  Repeat this process for each sheet of cookies.  Let baked cookies cool on trays on cooling racks for 10 minutes before carefully removing them to be assembled with filling.

Optional Ingredients:

gel food coloring

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup water

topping of choice (chopped cocoa nibs, chopped nuts, kosher salt)

If choosing to dye the macaron batter, the food coloring should be added to the batter just after the dry ingredients have been sifted in but before any folding has taken place.

To add a topping to the top of the baked macarons, a simple syrup is needed to bind the topping to the cookies.  To make a simple syrup, simple combine equal parts sugar and water into a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow the liquid to come to a simmer.  Remove from heat when all the sugar has dissolved and liquid has formed a syrup, about 5-10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

Brush a small amount of cooled simple syrup onto top cookie of the assembled macaron.  Sprinkle on the finely chopped topping of choice and allow to dry completely before handling.

Rum Infused Chocolate-Black Cherry Filling

¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips          ¼ cup black cherry preserves

¼ cup cream cheese, softened                 1 teaspoon rum extract

Assemble a double boiler with a small glass bowl and melt the chocolate.  Once melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool.  In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy.  Add in the cherry preserves and rum extract and beat until combined.  Pour in the cooled chocolate and beat until homogeneous.  Transfer filling to a pastry bag and pipe a small amount onto the bottom surface of macarons to sandwich the cookies together.

Pistachio Cream Cheese Buttercream

½ cup white chocolate chips

¼ cup cream cheese, softened

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup pistachio paste

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup confectioners sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream

Assemble a double boiler with a small glass bowl and melt the chocolate.  Once melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl, cream together the cheese and butter until soft and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add in pistachio paste and salt and beat until thoroughly combined.  Beat in the cooled white chocolate.  Gradually mix in the confectioners sugar while continuing to beat, and then drizzle in vanilla and heavy cream and beat until desired consistency has been achieved.

April 20, 2011

Thank Heaven (continued)

I knew that there was going to be a decent amount of children at the luncheon of Talia’s Christening and even though I find the pink champagne cupcakes to be super yummy, they do have a pretty prominent champagne taste… maybe not the most appealing flavor for those under the age of 6.  I decided it would be a good idea to do something a little more kid-friendly, but equally as dressed up and delicious.

In keeping with the cherry blossom theme of the week, and in my excitement and longing to use the delectable Michigan black cherry preserves I’d been so overjoyed to find, I decided on a rich, chocolate cupcake wrapped around a black cherry buttercream… a semi-spin on a chocolate covered cherry.  I hoped that this classic combination of flavors could be appreciated by party attendees of any age, but in order to further entice the younger crowd just a touch, I completed the cakes with colored sprinkles and chocolate candies atop the whipped white chocolate ganache.

The festive chocolate cakes were a huge hit at the luncheon, maybe even more so than the pink champagne cakes!  I especially loved the overall texture and chocolate flavor of the slightly-sweet cakes…  this just may be my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.  And the subtle hint of cherry in the girly-pink buttercream filling was the perfect choice to honor the week of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the arrival of spring, and to celebrate the beautiful little girl who brought us all together that afternoon.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Black Cherry Filling & Whipped White Chocolate Ganache

Inspired by: Chocolate Covered Cherries

Chocolate Cupcakes

Adapted from Magnolia Bakery’s “Chocolate Cupcakes,”  The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 tablespoon instant coffee granules

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

–recipe yield: about 24 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tines with cupcake papers.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl filled with the unsweetened chocolate.  Melt the chocolate over the double boiler and remove from heat.  Stir in the instant coffee granules and set aside to cool to lukewarm.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars, beating until fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.   Slowly drizzle in a small amount of the cooled chocolate, as to bring the mixture up to temperature without cooking and scrambling any of the egg.  Continue to then add in the remaining chocolate, mixing until well-incorporated.

Slowly and in three equal batches, add the dry ingredients into the chocolate-butter mixture, alternating with two equal additions of the buttermilk and vanilla.  With each addition, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not over-beat.  When the batter is smooth and homogeneous, carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake-tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before removing them from the tins and transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Black Cherry Cream Cheese Buttercream Filling

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

3-4 tablespoons Michigan black cherry preserves

about 1 ½ – 2 ½ cups powdered sugar

3/4  tablespoon heavy cream

In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until creamy and soft (about 3 minutes).  Add in the preserves and continue to beat until well-incorporated. While mixing on a low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary and continuing to add in the sugar until desired consistency and flavor is achieved.  Drizzle in the heavy cream and increase the mixer speed to medium-high.  Beat buttercream for another minute or so, or until fluffy. Transfer buttercream filling into a pastry or zip-lock bags to prepare to fill cupcakes.

Whipped White Chocolate Ganache

This is a basic whipped ganache recipe that compliments the chocolate cakes very well.  Preparation should begin the day before serving.

24 ounces white chocolate chips

1  1/4 cups heavy cream

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl.  Combine and melt together the white chocolate and 1 cup of the cream in the large bowl.  Once fully melted and smooth, remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool.  Once the mixture has cooled, cover the bowl and transfer to the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Just before ready to frost cupcakes, remove the slightly hardened ganache from the fridge and allow to sit out and come to room temperature.  Then, beat the softened mixture on medium-high speed, adding about 1/4 cup heavy cream to moisten the mixture, if necessary.  Continue to whip the gananche until desired fluffy or stiffened texture is achieved.  Remember to be careful not to over-whip the mixture, as over-whipping heavy cream can create butter.

When ready to frost cupcakes, transfer ganache into  a pastry or zip-lock bag.

Optional Ingredients for Decorating:

M&M’s, candy coated chocolate covered almonds, jelly beans, colored candies, colored sprinkles, jimmies, etc.

Assembly:

Using a round apple corer or a small paring knife, hollow out the centers of each cupcake.  Snip off the tip or a corner of the pastry or zip lock bag filled with the cherry-cream cheese buttercream and prepare to fill the cakes.  To do this, insert the tip of the bag into the hollowed cake and squeeze a small amount of the filling into the cake, just until it plumps and the filling barely reaches the top of the cake.  Continue to fill each cake, and when all cakes have been filled, replace the very tops of the inside “guts” that have been taken out of the cakes.  I prefer to tear off the bottom half of the “guts” before plugging each of the cupcake holes with only the top piece.

To frost the cakes, I used pastry bags with a round tip and also one with a large star tip to pipe different swirls on the cakes.  I used the M&M’s, almonds, jelly beans and other chocolate candies to create flower patterns, butterflies and dragonflies on the cakes, as well as some more simple decorations with a dusting of jimmies or sprinkles.  Get creative!

April 16, 2011

Hometown/New-Town Cherry Celebration

My parents came to DC  for a little visit last week, along with their adorable Japanese exchange student, Yuko, who I fell in love with.  Yuko is staying with my parents in Michigan for a year while she studies English at a nearby University.  When I heard that she’d be accompanying them on their visit, I was thrilled at the opportunity to be able to share with her some of the great beauty and history of America that’s showcased here in DC.  And what better time for a girl from Japan to visit DC than during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the two-week long celebration of the blossoming of the cherry trees galore, a gift given by the Mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC years ago to honor the friendship between the United States and Japan? 

I wanted to bake something special in honor of the Cherry Blossom Festival, and while I was deeply inspired by the exquisite beauty of the cherry trees and their pretty pink blossoms, neither my parents nor Evan care much for cherries.  Now, if we were talking Michigan black cherries, it would be a whole different story.  Found only in Michigan, these dark black cherries are pleasantly sweet-tart and seem to be enjoyed by cherry-lovers and non-cherry-lovers alike.  The only way I knew I could get away with using cherries in a dessert is if I could get my hands on some of these home-grown favorites, which would be nearly impossible seeing as though it is 9+ hour drive from DC to Michigan, where the cherries probably aren’t even in season yet.  I had just about given up on the idea of a cherry dessert for my family, when I randomly stumbled upon a jar of Michigan Black Cherry preserves while shopping one day.  I was overjoyed at the endless possibilities this little jar had to offer, and even more overjoyed when I brought it home, opened it up, tasted, and confirmed that the contents were, in fact, the real deal.

In desserts, cherries are commonly paired with almond flavors.  I chose to challenge myself by making an almond genoise, my first ever attempt at a traditional genoise.  A genoise is a slightly sweet Italian sponge-like cake and is a staple in French pastry.  It uses zero chemical leavening,  only air whipped into the batter to give the cake volume.  It can also be piped into ladyfingers or molded into madelines.  As these cakes can be a little temperamental, I tried two different recipes, just barely altering either (as this was my first attempt), and chose the recipe that yielded the most favorable result.  That is the recipe I will share below.  In between the cake layers, I incorporated a layer of the delicious preserves and a layer of vanilla pastry cream, and topped the whole thing off with a whipped white chocolate and black cherry ganache (as I wouldn’t dare serve my mom any sort of dessert that didn’t include at least some chocolate) the same color as the rosy-pink blooms that grace the District.  The finished product turned out to be a yummy tribute to the city I now call home, paired with the comforting flavors from where I grew up.

Michigan Black Cherry-Blossom Festival Layer Cake

Inspired by: Michigan Black Cherries (and the DC Cherry Blossoms)

Almond Genoise

Barely adapted from Chef De Cuisine’s “Almond Genoise”

-note: this recipe can and should be cut in half and prepared in two batches, as it’s  much easier to incorporate air in the batter when there is less of it.

2/3 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour

8 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, separated

6 large egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare three 9-inch round cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper, and then buttering and flouring the bottoms and the sides.

Sift together in a medium bowl the cake flour and almond flour.  Set aside.  In a separate, medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to form soft peaks.  Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar while beating.  Set aside.

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl.  Rigorously whisk together egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar in the large bowl over the simmering water.  Beat the mixture continuously until triple in volume, around 8-10 minutes.  Then, turn off the burner and remove bowl from heat.  Fold the egg whites into the egg-sugar mixture.  Slowly and in small batches, sift in the flours fold until incorporated, and then fold in the butter.

Distribute half the batter into one pan, and evenly divide the second half of the batter into each of the other two pans.  You should have one pan with half of the batter in it, and two pans, each with a quarter of the batter in them.  Place them into the preheated oven.  Use only the oven light when checking the cakes, as opening and closing the ovens will reduce the heat and keep the cakes from rising to their full, fluffy volume.  Remove the two pans with the least batter after about 15-20 minutes (or until lightly brown and springy to the touch), and remove the pan with the most batter about 5 or so minutes after.  Really keep an eye on these cakes while they bake so that they don’t overcook and dry out, as a genoise’ tends to be a somewhat dry cake anyway.  Keep the cakes in the pans on wire racks to cool until ready to assemble.

Whipped White Chocolate and Black Cherry Ganache

24 ounces white chocolate chips

1 1/4 cup heavy cream, divided

1/4-1/2 cup Michigan black cherry preserves, or any substitute

-optional: 3-4 drops of red food coloring*

-a mug of very hot water (for decorating)**

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl containing the white chocolate and 1 cup of the heavy cream.  Use a rubber spatula to keep the mixture moving as the chocolate melts.  When bowl is removed from heat and chocolate has melted, allow it to sit at room temperature to cool for a few minutes.  Then, cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

After chocolate ganache has been chilled overnight, remove the bowl from the fridge.  Ganache should be slightly hardened.  Use a wooden spoon or even a knife to break it up a little in the bowl.  Add a couple tablespoons of the heavy cream and the desired amount of cherry preserves to the hardened ganache.  Using an electric mixer, whip the mixture until the chocolate ganache has broken apart by aid of the added liquid and the mixture is homogenous.  If needed or desired, add the remaining two tablespoons of the heavy cream, as well as any more preserves and the red food coloring.  Whip the mixture until soft peaks form, or until desired consistency is achieved.  Do not over-whip the mixtures, as the heavy cream can eventually turn into butter if whipped for too long.

Other Ingredients for Fillings:

1 cup of pastry cream

¾ cup Michigan Black Cherry preserves, or any substitute

Assembly:

First, I like to trim the three cake layers.  I use a cardboard circle or the top of a round Tupperware lid, place it in the center on the top of each cake, and use it as a guide to trim the edges off of the cake with a serrated knife.

Smear a dollop of pastry cream onto the middle of platter or cake plate to secure the cake to the center of the dish.  Place one of the two thinner cake layers upside-down onto the platter, making sure its centered.  Spoon the cherry preserves onto the cake and use an angled spatula to gently spread the preserves into an even layer that reaches all edges of the cake, without cascading down the sides of it.

Next, gently place the thickest layer of cake on top of the layer of preserves, lining it up with the bottom layer as best you can.  Pipe the pastry cream in a circle as close to the outer edge of the cake layer as possible, without allowing it to fall the the sides of the cake.  Spoon the rest of the pastry cream onto the center of the cake, using a spatula to spread the cream into an even layer across the  entire cake.  Place the remaining, thinner cake layer gently atop the pastry cream.

Slide a few strips of parchment paper under the cake, in between the bottom layer of cake  and the cake plate.  This will help to catch any drips without dirtying the plate.  Gently spoon some of the whipped cherry-chocolate ganache onto the assembled cake.  Use a spatula to spread an even layer of the ganache across the cake, covering both the tops and sides.  Smooth out the ganache, pull away and discard the strips of parchment paper from beneath the cake, and serve.

*The whipped ganache is beautiful without the food coloring and can easily be omitted.  In keeping with the theme of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the added color helped me achieve a pink that closely matched the blooms.

**A tip for getting the ganache super smooth after covering the cake:  Dip your metal, angled spatula into a mug of very hot water before spreading every few strokes.  The chocolate in the ganache will soften and smooth out into a pretty, shiny surface.